Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
We have before us a fish story, but not the kind your friends tell about the big one that got away. Here no fish gets away, and in the end we find some extra fish in the pot.
I used to fish more than I do now. After sitting out in the hot sun and bringing home nothing too many times, I have found other ways to get sunburned.
The disciples of Jesus in this gospel are different. There are seven of them in a boat. They fish all night and catch nothing. This seemed to happen often, because it was the same situation when they first were called by Jesus to be fishers of men. That time Jesus came to them and told them to go out again after his sermon and they did, and they caught a great haul.
There are some striking differences between the stories. The earlier time was when they first met Jesus. There were so many fish the nets began to break. They needed help from another boat to get them in. When they go the fish in, Peter went to Jesus and confessed he was a sinner, asking Jesus to leave him. Jesus then made him a fisher of men.
This time when Jesus told them to try for another catch, he said to let the net down on the other side, apparently just the opposite of what they were used to doing. This time the net was full of fish again, so many that they couldnít haul it up into the boat, but the net did not break.
What are we to learn from this? Jesus once told a parable about the kingdom of heaven being like a net that was dragged through the lake and caught all kinds of fish. He made his disciples fishers of men. Through this miracle it is as if Jesus is saying, "you will continue to be fishing for men by all that I have taught you, but you will be doing it differently than you did before. Before your nets broke, but now they wonít. Before you fished on one side of your boat, but now you will fish from the other side."
The disciples must have learned much from this, for their lives show that they fished for other fish. God sent Peter, James, John, and the others far and wide through the known world. Preaching the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus was the net they dragged.
People were the fish they caught, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Galatians, Scythians, men, women, children, youths, rich and poor, slaves and free alike. Who they were or where they lived didnít matter. Hearing and believing that Jesus was killed for their transgressions and made alive again for their salvation is what mattered. For the disciples of Jesus, a fish in the net was someone who needed a savior and found that in the person of Jesus Christ. It wasnít only their friends and neighbors they were called to reach out to, but fish from around the world.
That is what Godís church is about today, too. No church exists just for itself. Yes, the church is to uphold the world of God by preaching and teaching. It is to defend the gospel by correcting errors. It is also to bring more fish into the net by preaching and teaching. That is one reason why our church is a part of a synod, that is a large group of congregations that work together. When we train and send missionaries forth we can be assured that they are teaching the truth about Jesus and his word. Thereís no room for error when youíre dealing with someoneís soul. We work together to send our missionaries forth, like Pastor Jeff Oshwald in Taiwan. By our tithes to the Lord we all pull on the net together.
When Peter saw how much fish were in the net that day, he recognized it was an act of God. He confesses his faith by saying, "It is the Lord." He couldnít wait to see Jesus, not for the boat to get to shore. So he jumped in and swam for shore. But before he did, he reverently put his clothes on, then went swimming. What is this all about? Well, you donít meet God in your underwear! When you realize who you are fishing for, everything you do is important.
As people of the resurrection, the realization that Jesus is alive after all he went through for us on the cross should bring us to the same conclusion. God has placed us in a certain circumstance in life that we might serve him. He gives us a certain life to live. We have a certain income, a group of people to love us and give us support.
Our homes, families, our friends, the people who live near us and work with us are the fish. God has place the good news inside us. It is the knowledge of how Jesus defeated sin and death by his cross. This is the net we are to fish with. The one who tells us to do this is Jesus himself.
Sadly, most of the time we do not see ourselves as fishermen. How many times have we missed the opportunity to tell the good news about Jesus? We forget why we are here in the world. We are not merely to see life as drudgery, working, loafing, avoiding discomfort. We are not to take life easy and stay in the boat where itís safe.
We are to put on our best clothes and get into the water, so to say, to live our lives in the best way so as to serve God in everything we do. As the Bible says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).
God put us here in the richest country the world has ever known for a reason. He gave us the best education, the most disposable wealth, the greatest technology, and the most freedom any society has ever known for a very important reason. It is not merely to serve ourselves as we so demonstrate through our actions. We must repent of this if we are to continue to bring the gospel to the nations. God loves the whole world and wants everyone to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus, that they might celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with us in this life, and their own resurrection to eternal life one day. All disciples of Jesus are also his fishermen.
God Loves us and forgives us for wasting the precious opportunity to reach the lost. His forgiveness gives us the power to redirect our lives to deliver ourselves and our resources into his service. This is further seen in the story when the boat is brought ashore. Jesus already has a fire going with fish cooking on it, and some bread. He has prepared a meal for his friends and is ready to eat with them. Then he says to them, "Bring some of your fish too."
This is significant for the disciples and for us. This meal, after the fruitless struggles of the night and the catch of fish, symbolizes in a beautiful way the glorious and blessed feast on the heavenly shores, together with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, following their faithful service here on earth. We should look at this as a pledge of the bliss which is in store for those who shall be the masterís guests in the kingdom of glory. It also shows us that Jesus will nourish and comfort his servants in the world and help preserve them in their work.
Jesus fed his church alone when he came to earth and offered himself up to atone for the sins of all people. He has spread his banquet table before us, just as he fed the disciples that day. He invites us to eat his meal, to feast until our souls are filled with forgiveness, peace, and eternal life. He has enough already to feed us all. At the same time he invites us to bring other fish to the banquet. He makes us fishers of men that we may bring others to the Lordís great banquet.
How beautiful it is to see that in that reunion of the unsuccessful fishermen and the Lord who filled their nets Jesus provided a miraculous catch again. He does the same for us today. How beautiful to see that on the shore Jesus has a banquet prepared for everyone who comes in on the boat when the fishing is over. This is enough to make me want to give fishing another try. How about you?
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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